Representatives from the State University of Infrastructure and Technology (SUIT) in Kyiv have made their first visit to the University of Plymouth.

The two organisations signed a formal twinning agreement in May 2022 as part of the #TwinForHope campaign launched by Universities UK and the Cormack Consultancy Group.

Since then, the University has been providing a variety of assistance to SUIT, identifying and meeting practical needs such as IT infrastructure to help manage remote working and learning, student services, and mental health support.

It has also established the first of what, it is hoped, will be a number of collaborative research projects exploring ways to prevent wear and tear on the global railway network.

Having held discussions virtually via a meeting with the University’s Senate in November 2022, the potential for further collaborations was discussed in detail during a three-day visit by officials from SUIT’s senior management team, which took place almost a year to the day since the invasion of Ukraine started.

Hosted by the Vice-Chancellor, the delegation has seen at first hand the cutting-edge maritime facilities on the Plymouth campus, including the Cyber-SHIP Lab, the Maritime Simulation Laboratory and the COAST Laboratory.

They spoke to academics from the University’s School of Society and Culture, Plymouth Business School, the School of Psychology and the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, about the potential for future projects as well as learning more about the ways British universities manage research and education.

Ian McFadzen, Chief Executive Officer at Plymouth Science Park, also provided the delegation with a tour of the park and an insight into the University’s innovation partnerships. The visitors from SUIT were guests of honour at the Civic Reception in The Box hosted by the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Cllr Sue Dann.

During the visit, it was also confirmed that the University will transport an electricity generator – donated and adapted by Princess Yachts following a request for support from the University – to Kyiv, enabling many of SUIT’s research and support staff to keep working during temporary electricity blackouts caused by the ongoing invasion.

Professor Dafydd Moore, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Plymouth, said: “It was a pleasure to welcome visitors from SUIT to Plymouth after so many months of meeting online. In that time, we have worked to help them overcome some of the challenges SUIT faces on a daily basis, helping to provide them with essential equipment and support to both staff and students. In the longer term, there are various areas where there is the potential for research and other forms of collaborations. While the immediate future remains challenging, the resilience and optimism of colleagues at SUIT is extraordinary and is something that we at Plymouth hope to support in a long-term partnership over what we all hope will be brighter years ahead.”

The three visitors from SUIT were: Oleksandr Sobovyi, Assistant Rector; Olena Kostenko, Vice-Rector for International Relations and Postgraduate Studies; and Oleksandr Kulinchenko, Vice-Rector for administrative-economic and social-educational work.

The trip to Plymouth marked the first time they had been able to meet in person since the invasion started in February 2022, as staff from SUIT are now based in various countries across Europe.

Olena Kostenko said: “The last year has been incredibly challenging for our staff, students and their families and friends. We have staff now displaced all over the world, and we do not know when we will all be able to get back to Kyiv with our families. Surprisingly, it has also created opportunities that are benefiting our university. The partnership with the University of Plymouth is already making a huge difference, and the support we have received from everyone here has been fantastic. This visit has enabled us to expand our discussions and we are all feeling positive about how they might build for the future.”